“The Way That Light Attaches”

"Columbine, Stone Ridge, NY, 6/1/14, 10:40 am"

“Columbine, Stone Ridge, NY, 6/1/14, 10:40 am”

My new exhibition, “The Way That Light Attaches,” opens tonight from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Milne Inc, 81 Broadway, Kingston, and will be on view through August 31.

I’m excited to be showing new (quite different) work, shot in 2014-2015. The 15 24″x36″ and 16″x24″ color photographs, archival inkjet prints made on my Epson 7900, are about light, depth/focus, scale, motion–and flowers. (While searching for a title for the show, I jokingly considered “Flowers!” but of course Jeb! has the use of the exclamation point all sewn up.)

It’s not that I wouldn’t have thought that flowers were an appropriate subject for photography if I had never seen James Welling’s ground-breaking color photograms. It’s that I wouldn’t have thought about photographing flowers at all. I’ve always photographed people. But since moving to Stone Ridge part-time nine years ago, I’ve begun shooting interiors (Linda O’Keeffe’s spectacular book for Rizzoli, “Heart and Home: Rooms That Tell Stories”), damaged landscapes and plants. There are many things I like about making the new work, including the relative quiet, a change. My portrait shoots are often very noisy, in a great way–talking, laughing, eating.

My mother taught me the names of things in the natural world. Although she grew up in a squat apartment building on New Main Street in south Yonkers, she had a green thumb. Babette and I remember Mommy lavishing attention on her compact garden–there wasn’t much ground to plant, our suburban tract house sat on a typical, small lot–and choosing two young trees, a white birch and a red maple. Before I left for college, they had expanded to dominate the backyard.

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When Political Vitriol Was Infused With Wit

Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, NYC, 6/19/15

Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, NYC, 6/19/15

In 1968, ABC News’ ratings were in the basement. The networks’ executives knew they “needed a media event” and hired two public intellectuals, Gore Vidal, a Democrat and historian, and William F. Buckley Jr., a “new” Conservative, to debate during the Democratic and Republican conventions. The slogan for the coverage was “Unconventional,” which would prove to be an understatement.

Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s riveting new documentary “Best of Enemies” includes the enormously entertaining footage of these two brilliant, supremely articulate men, with patrician accents, going for each other’s political jugular and willfully straying into the personal. The Vidal and Buckley debates–and the ’68 election–revealed the political fault line that still dominates our politics. And spawned TV’s future generations of warring pundits.

Neville (who won the Oscar for best documentary for “Twenty Feet From Stardom”) says, “Ultimately, this is a story about something I care about deeply; how we now ‘talk’ and ‘listen’ to each other through media that is in fact corrosive to our society.”

“Best of Enemies” will open on Friday, July 31 at the IFC Center (Robert Gordon in person at 6:20 pm and 8:25 pm shows and on Saturday, August 1 at 2:15 pm) and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto. A national rollout will follow.

I photographed William F. Buckley in his maisonette on the Upper East Side. When I rang his buzzer, he was the one who answered the door. We probably had nothing in common but our true love of dogs, and that afternoon it was plenty.

William F. Buckley, NYC, 3/21/86

William F. Buckley, NYC, 3/21/86

Posted in Dogs, Film, History, Politics, Television | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

James Sneed 1938-2015

James Sneed

James Sneed

James Sneed, an original (in both senses of the word) member of Bridge Group Artists, founded by art therapist Judy Rosenthal 1988, painted because his life depended on it.

In 1959 he was invited to join The Arts Studio on Grand Street and worked with other artists including Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis and Al Hollingsworth. James founded The 20th Century Creators in the 1960s and designed his first outdoor exhibit.

James stopped making his work three times when he was struggling with mental illness. The first time he quit, believing he had exhausted his creative resources, he subsequently returned to painting, spurred on “by pride.” The second, he resumed his work because he “realized that by not painting, I ran the risk of not being able to come back–to return anymore.” And the third time he joined Bridge Group Artists and found a place to work and a support system.

James, a kind and gentle man, called the great painter Jacob Lawrence his mentor, and in turn was a valued mentor–and friend–to other artists in the Group.

James Sneed, "Mother and Child"

James Sneed, “Mother and Child”

James Sneed, Untitled

James Sneed, Untitled

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The Life Aquatic

Leo (Manic Panic Electric Lizard), Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/14/15

Leo (Manic Panic Electric Lizard), Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/14/15

Crab, Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/13/15

Crab, Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/13/15

Ballston Beach, Truro, MA, 7/17/15

Ballston Beach, Truro, MA, 7/17/15

Ryder (seaweed collar), Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/17/15

Ryder (seaweed collar), Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/17/15

Clam, Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/15/15

Clam, Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/15/15

Goldfish, Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/17/15

Goldfish, Fisher Beach, Truro, MA, 7/17/15

Posted in Dogs, Nature, Photography, Photos | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Stephin at the Spiegeltent: I’ll Go Back to Annandale*

Stephin Merritt (center)/Magnetic Fields and Guest Vocalists, NYC, 11/13/99

Stephin Merritt (center)/The Magnetic Fields and Guest Vocalists, NYC, 11/13/99

Late in 1999, I had a totally fun shoot with Stephin Merritt/The Magnetic Fields (and guest vocalists), which ran as part of an article in The Village Voice when their great album, “69 Love Songs” was released.

It’s inexplicable why it’s taken me more than a decade and a half to hear Merritt live.  So excited to be going to his concert at Bard SummerScape’s Spiegeltent tonight.

Steely Dan, “My Old School”

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The Surprises After the Pregnancy Test

Kris Swanberg and her son Jude, NYC, 6/24/15

Kris Swanberg and her son Jude, NYC, 6/24/15

There’s something radical at the heart of “Unexpected,” director/co-writer Kris Swanberg’s third feature. Samantha (Cobie Smulders), 30, a dedicated white science teacher working in a soon-to-be-shuttered inner city Chicago high school, and one of her favorite students, Jasmine (newcomer Gail Bean), a talented senior, African American, discover their unplanned pregnancies around the same time.

While Samantha and Jasmine develop a sweet and genuine friendship, sharing prenatal yoga classes and junk food, Samantha’s best of intentions don’t bridge the cultural gap. Ignoring white privilege, she’s ultimately unaware of how different the same situation is in their different lives. What Jasmine needs, wants, can afford (in all senses of the word), aren’t what Samantha wants for her. Samantha doesn’t “save” Jasmine.  The younger woman, clever and determined, draws on her own resources.

“Unexpected” will open on Friday, July 24 at the Village East Cinema and will be available On Demand and on iTunes.

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Reverse Angle on a Genocide

JO 1014_014_7x300©robinholland

Joshua Oppenheimer

In “The Look of Silence” Joshua Oppenheimer’s probing and moving companion piece to his staggering “The Act of Killing,” the filmmaker turns his camera around.

“The Act of Killing” concentrated on bad actors (both senses of the phrase) uninhibitedly re-enacting for the camera the enormous crimes committed during the 1965 Indonesian genocide, performing their roles as if life were a genre film.

In Oppenheimer’s new film, the focus is on those who suffered (and those who continue to suffer–no one has been held accountable for the massacre, there has been no Truth and Reconciliation in Indonesian). One family’s son and brother, Ramli, brutally murdered, represents the more than one million people who were slaughtered by the forces of the military dictatorship which labeled anyone perceived of as a threat as a communist and “godless,” in a religious Muslim culture. And like all survivors, Ramli’s aged and ill parents and a brother, Adi, 44, born two years after His brother’s death, have lived with their grief in silence–the killers are now often in positions of political and economic power and the history has been suppressed.

Adi watches video interviews Oppenheimer shot of the murderers recounting their crimes. Determined to break the nearly 50 years of silence, he confronts ex-Komando Aksi brigade members (including a wealthy politician) and their families, frequently in the course of his work as an optometrist. And with a quiet resolve, Adi demands an accounting. (Although this is a non-fiction film, the metaphor of an optometrist, as one who helps people see, being the revealer of truth, would be too heavy-handed if employed by a filmmaker less skilled and compassionate than Oppenheimer.)

Adi’s beloved mother takes a small measure of comfort in her belief that god will deal appropriately with those who committed the atrocities. Adi, less patient, refuses to accept the murderers’ platitudes (“the past is past,” “we were only following orders”–with its echoes of an earlier genocide), intentional forgetfulness or even the erosion of memories by dementia. With great courage, he pushes for accountability and a change in how his country deals with its long-denied history.

“The Look of Silence” will open on Friday, July 17 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, followed by a national rollout. Joshua Oppenheimer will give a free talk tonight at 6:30 pm at FSLC’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater. Q&As with Oppenheimer will follow the 7:20 pm and 9:40 pm shows at the Sunshine on Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18, and the 4:45 pm and 7:20 pm shows on Sunday, July 19.

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